Sleep is one of the strongest influencers of academic success since it reduces stress, improves memory, increases alertness, boosts productivity, and maintains top physical health. Due to sleep’s power on our ability to concentrate and retain information, students who do not get enough sleep – eight or even nine hours are recommended for adults – may see a negative impact on their GPAs.
This is a huge problem considering college students are one of the most sleep deprived populations. A survey done by Brown University revealed that only 11% of students reported they experienced good sleep, and a substantial 73% of students said they had sleep problems. One of these problems is sleep deprivation. All-nighters are a bad idea, since they decrease our ability to process and analyze information, and you can’t count on the weekend to ‘catch up’ on missed sleep. In fact, having a longer sleep-in to try to recharge can actually throw off your entire sleep patterns and create challenges for you when you get back into your weekday schedule.
While it isn’t perfect, a way to combat this pressing issue is napping.
Naps boost energy and alertness, reduce stress, improve memory, and are found to increase your productivity by 30%. It’s no wonder why people like physicist Albert Einstein and composer Johannes Brahms took naps. Our bodies are biologically prone to nap, naturally experiencing a wave of sleepiness in the midafternoon between the peaks of alertness occurring in the morning and evening.
However, not all naps are equal in their effectiveness. Here are some tips that you can use to master the perfect nap.
The main rule for when you should nap is to stay clear from times that are less than five hours before you would usually go to bed. The ideal window is anywhere between 12-3 PM, since this is when most people begin to feel sluggish and might need a boost of energy or alertness. Only nap after 4 o’clock and into the evening if you have to. For example, if you know you can either take a late nap or pull an all-nighter, always choose the nap. A few hours of sleep are better than none.
Sometimes you can’t always choose the perfect nap setting. Maybe you have to make that random spot on campus work for you. But if you can, try to create a positive sleep environment: somewhere that is relatively cool, dark, and quiet. If you’re aiming for a quick nap, try sleeping slightly upright. This position helps you avoid slipping into deep sleep and will make it easier to get up again. However, you can always stick with the classic recline, since some people may struggle with falling asleep sitting up.
For How Long?
Different nap lengths are related to the desired results you want from a snooze.
Power Nap: This classic can last anywhere from 6-20 minutes of sleep and is best for when you have to get right back to work once you wake up, since you are limiting your sleep cycle to only the lighter stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM).
NASA Nap: This perfectly timed 26 minute nap was coined by NASA pilots after a study showed that their performance improved by 34% and their alertness increased by 54% after a sleep of this length. At this length, you won’t fall into a super deep sleep and will feel energized when you wake up. Try this out for those days you plan to work long hours.
Dangerous Nap: Try to avoid this timing that lasts from 45-60 minutes. Your alarm will sound when your body is in the middle of your sleep cycle, and you’ll feel groggy and maybe even more sleep deprived than before. With this length, you will also face sleep inertia – meaning napping benefits won’t kick in until after a very sleepy 30 minutes post-nap.
Ideal Nap: If all of your naps were perfect, they would be 90 minutes long. This is the length of a complete REM cycle, meaning that you basically score a mini nighttime rest and can wake up again when your body is only in light sleep. You will feel well rested, have a stronger ability to concentrate, and find that you are better at recalling information.
Hopefully with this information you can choose a time and place that’s right for you and work towards mastering the art of napping. Soon you’ll be on your way to feeling more energized!